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With reservations, Kenyatta Johnson for City Council’s 2nd District | Endorsement

Johnson represents both the good and bad of City Council.

Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.
Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.Read moreDavid Swanson / File Photograph

The 2019 primary is a tale of two council races: the exciting, vibrant newcomers bringing energy to the at-large race, and the soporific district races, which could end up with reelected incumbents in every seat — including the seat of Bobby Henon, who was indicted in a federal corruption case a few months ago and is running unopposed. All ten incumbents are seeking reelection, with only five challenged.

We invited candidates in those districts to answer a questionnaire and participate in an endorsement interview.

The decision in the 2nd district was difficult. Kenyatta Johnson represents both the good and bad of City Council. He has been a serial abuser of Councilmanic prerogative, facing multiple accusations — and one court decision against him — of intervening in land use decisions to favor his friends and punish his enemies. At the same time, Johnson has a solid record representing his constituents’ interests including fighting for a living wage for airport workers and expanding assistance to longtime homeowners to pay their taxes.

His opponent, Lauren Vidas, has a resume that is both impressive and problematic. Vidas was a member of Jim Kenney’s transition team in 2015, after which she represented the beverage industry — lobbying against the signature policy of the mayor she helped shepherd into office.

As the challenger, and as a white candidate in a district that is only 33 percent white and where the sores of displacement due to gentrification are still raw, Vidas had an uphill climb to garner enthusiasm around her. We did not see her succeed.

Kenyatta Johnson is the better pick for the 2nd District.

» Read more about the Inquirer’s endorsement process

» See the full list of Inquirer endorsements for Philly’s 2019 municipal primary